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On The Hudson Line‐Poughkeepsie to New York
by Lou Lewis
That first train ride was frightening
To a small boy. The giant black engine,
The smoke and steam, hurrying passengers,
Conductor shouting "All Aboard!"
Were not balanced by my hand in my mother's hand.
But now I press my check against the cool glass
And wait for glimpses of the great Hudson River,
Past the oil tanks, the quarry, the decaying houses,
And there! A cove of shale stones and stunted trees,
Dappled grey waters that reach across to massive hills
That will grow to mountains as they march west.
In New Hamburg more people crowd on board.
Commuters, already weary, students
With backpacks, mothers with small children, all with
Cell phones that are just waiting to disturb my reverie.
I am comforted by a V of Canadian geese descending.
Now, moving swiftly by, the Chelsea Yacht Club
Where I once raced Lightning's, there is sudden sun upon
The water. A hint of wave foam is quickly
Lost in a blur of trees and ledges. A man in a uniform
Is holding out his hand and, with a start, I give him my ticket.
The Beacon station offers a view of Newburgh where
New restaurants and a marina garland the waterfront
The old ferry station stands waiting to be renewed.
I see an oil tanker heading north
And remember the slicks that no longer float upon the waters.
The new Dia Art Museum shoots by on the left, like a performance piece.
Breakneck Ridge tunnel signals the approach to Cold Spring.
The blackness momentarily silences the cell phones.
Storm King Mountain, highway threading
Across its brow, now heralds a five minute stretch of clear views.
The river narrows and a red tug boat proudly displays a flag
That whips in the rising wind. An egret stands poised in the shallows.
In my mind I see the marching figures of cadets and hear the
Drums. Then they are gone, gone with the great chain
That once challenged the British fleet at Garrison. Now there is
A refurbished 19th century railroad station in pastels that speaks
Of parasols and bonnets instead of war. Another train whooshes by,
The interior illuminated and peopled by our sleepy-eyed doppelgangers.
The approach to Peekskill exposes mighty Haverstraw Bay,
We glide across Annsville Creek where Jan Peeck once lived,
The waters are busy with white sails and sea-kayackers and I
Envy their intimate connection to the river. The Commander,
Awash with sight-seers, plows up-river through the current,
Throwing up a surge of white water.
We race past the picnics at Steamboat Dock in Cortlandt; in the
Curve of the land I see Croton Point reaching west and forming
A sheltered bay where once I rode the ancient iceboat "Puff" and then
A new Yankee Class ice-boat that took my breath away. The water is
Calm and soft now. The railroad yard here is large, locomotives,
Passenger cars rest and await the signal to begin again.
Now we pick up speed, the views are blocked by the
Ubiquitous kudzu vine and rampant acacia. These are not the
Trees of Copley or Asher Durand but they are somehow right for
The lost lives shuttered away in Sing Sing prison.
The guard towers seem empty now and barbed wire, on old brick
Walls, is rusting in the afternoon sunshine.
I spot the 1883 Lighthouse in Sleepy Hollow's Kingsland Point Park;
Disney visions of Ichabod Crane and The Headless Horseman
Come flooding out of memory but are erased by the sight of
The Tappan Zee Bridge, crammed with cars and trucks, that
Remind us that the quaint 19th Century homes have been
Superseded by a new esthetic. The capture here
Of Major Andre was long ago.
All too soon we are rounding into Spuyden Deuvel, but there
Is no devil here‐only an eight man shell with long oars
Dipping synchronously into calm waters and leaving dappled
Punctuation marks in neat rows behind. I have sailed down
This branch of the Hudson‐called East River‐and three bridges
Had to be raised for our passage.
The train rocks and snorts through the littered Bronx, across
A steel bridge that gives a view of islands and bridges into the mist,
On, past sturdy brick buildings, in contrast to the more glamorous
Manhattan to the south. Then the earth consumes us into blackness,
Lights come on in our car and I find myself looking at a face
That is staring back, contented, from the window.